Food Review: VeroGusto, 12 Norfolk Row, Sheffield S1 2PA. Tel: 0114 276 0004.

Saverio Bruno at VeroGusto, Norfolk Row, Sheffield.
Saverio Bruno at VeroGusto, Norfolk Row, Sheffield.
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Can it be just seven years ago that I took Esterina Celva aside and told her confidentially that she really ought to charge more for the quality of her food.

Time, inflation and a change of scene means she and her partner Bruno Saverio have taken my advice.

Esterina Celia prepares some food at VeroGusto, Norfolk Row, Sheffield.

Esterina Celia prepares some food at VeroGusto, Norfolk Row, Sheffield.

Then a melanzane parmigiana, the like of which I had seldom tasted before and only equalled once when it came with a view of Lake Como, was £3.80 and occupied a whole dish.

Today the same item has been poshed up to the nines and is the width of an aubergine, towered up in slices on a plate for £8.95

Then the business was called Gusto-Italiano but today is VeroGusto after a threatening letter from a restaurant chain – but every foodie in Sheffield still knows it as Gusto.

When I first met the couple they were in premises on Church Street, in a former coffee bar which once banned me because I had written unfavourably about the owner’s previous restaurant.

Now VeroGusto is in a former teashop and Georgian gem on Norfolk Row and brings a touch of much-needed class to city centre eating.

Ester, as she is known, and Severio, as he is unfathomably called by his surname, are two of the thousands of young Italians who have emigrated to Britain for a better life: like Caesar before them they came, they saw and they conquered.

Unaccountably the Good Food Guide has ignored their progress but Lonely Planet lists a visit here as the most important out of 20 things to do in Sheffield.

Step inside and you could be in an upmarket restaurant just off a canal in Venice.

Tables are packed companionably together and there’s an animated babble of conversation as black waistcoated waiters glide between the tables.

You dress up for your surroundings here: the mix of wooden panelling, leather banquettes, gilt mirror, faux-crystal lighting and a back wall of wine bottles make you glad you’ve worn your kitten heels or designer jeans.

It looks and feels Italian although there is not a square inch of Artex, no Italian flag, footballer’s picture or giant pepperpot to be seen.

There’s a newish bar to one side, in the former tourist office, where you can sip a pre-dinner prosecco or Ave Maria while examining the menu.

And it doesn’t come cheap. You could, if you ferreted carefully around the menu, just come home at £22 for three courses, certainly less than the Italian spin on tournedos Rossini, fillet steak with chicken liver pate, pinenuts, sultanas and Marsala sauce at £25.50 but that’s going rate these days.

Most starters, except the soup, touch £10, pastas £10 to £15, fish around £20 and steaks more. And they don’t do pizzas.

But I’ve noticed over the years one thing you can’t put a price on and that’s consistency. Few customers leave disappointed, just check Trip Advisor.

Despite being Modern Italian they do garlic bread, or ciccio (£4.95), only this is not a pizza base but heavenly triangles of flatbread infused with herbs, garlic, oil and balsamic.

My new-look melanzane came with a flavoursome tomato sauce to the side and roast cherry tomatoes garnish, breathing elegance where this dish is traditionally a gutsy trattoria favourite.

My wife had a sort of fritto misto of vegetables (£8.95), courgette flowers, aubergine and asparagus in the lightest and crispest of tempura batters, the whole point of the dish.

As always, Ester is in the kitchen (“the only woman among all those men,” she sighs but anyone who has heard her nuclear explosions in the past will realise she is not intimidated while Bruno conducts the mood music front of house with a notepad rather than a baton.

I order lobster ravioli and my wife sea bass, breaking a golden rule because we normally eat both sides of the menu: fish and fowl or red meat and white. It’s seafood twice but I can break the rule as this is our last review.

The ravioli (£13.95) are large home made parcels generously filled with excellent lobster in an orange and cream sauce studded with pieces of prawn, garnished with an orange crisp.

The sea bass (£18.95) is as perfectly pitched: two pieces of crisp-skinned fillet over courgette tagliatelle in a minty, lemony courgette sauce with a side dish of roast potatoes.

Neither dish had many ingredients but they were top quality, cooked simply and precisely.

Desserts (£5.50) are mostly elegant cakes: a ‘sandwich’ of ricotta and pear between two slices of sponge and a tiramisu, possibly with too much cream but don’t let’s quibble.

The bill for food was £66.75 but I had wanted to end over 1,400 reviews on a high note and did.

Apart from coffees, two glasses of wine and sparkling water there was one other item on the bill.

I ordered my wife a prosecco (£4.95) in appreciation for 26 uncomplaining years of being told what to eat – and letting me share it.

VeroGusto, 12 Norfolk Row, Sheffield S1 2PA. Tel: 0114 276 0004. Open Tues-Sat 4-10pm. Vegetarian dishes. Disabled toilet and access. Music. Licensed. Credit cards. Street parking. Food 5; Atmosphere 5; Service 5; Value 5.